Today in Feminist History: Newsweek’s Own “Women in Revolt” (March 16, 1970)

March 16, 1970: Newsweek’s cover story entitled “Women in Revolt” hit the news stands today.

This morning’s press conference by Newsweek employees and their attorney, Eleanor Holmes Norton, with the magazine and its current cover story entitled “Women in Revolt” in the foreground.

The title is both accurate and timely.

Instead of merely reporting on the re-energized struggle against sexism, Newsweek has itself became part of the battle—when forty-six women who work for the publication announced today that they have filed a complaint against the magazine with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission charging sex bias.

The many reporters attending today’s press conference were told:

“We allege that women at Newsweek are systematically discriminated against in both hiring and promotion, and are forced to assume a subsidiary role simply because they are women … We think it is especially important that so highly visible and ostensibly open-minded an institution should not be permitted to continue a blatant policy of discrimination against women.”

The complaint was sent directly to Elizabeth J. Kuck at the EEOC in Washington, D.C., day before yesterday, and the text made public and read aloud by Eleanor Holmes Norton, the employees’ attorney, at a news conference this morning at the ACLU office in New York City.

She noted that although the Newsweek cover story was written by a woman, they chose an outside freelance writer to do it—a virtually unprecedented action. The magazine is normally written entirely by the staff.

According to Patricia Lyden: “There seems to be a gentleman’s agreement at Newsweek that women are researchers and men are writers and the exceptions are few and far between.”

Osborn Elliot, Newsweek‘s editor-in-chief, denies the claims of discrimination—but admits that most researchers are women because this is a “news magazine tradition” that goes back 50 years.

Norton offered to drop the complaint if the magazine would immediately integrate women into the correspondence, writing and editing positions, and men into the research jobs. The job of researcher—classified as an “editorial assistant” on the masthead—is to check the stories for factual accuracy. Presently, 51 of 52 writers are male and 35 of 36 researchers are female. There are no women editors, and 64 of 76 reporters and news bureau correspondents are men. 

The employees have also sent a separate letter to Katharine Graham, whose Washington Post Company owns Newsweek, deploring what they call “the day-to-day atmosphere that discourages women as professional journalists,” but also saying that they want to continue to make Newsweek a better magazine. 


David Dismore is the archivist for the Feminist Majority Foundation. His journey from would-be weather forecaster to full-time feminist began with the powerful impression made by a photo and a few paragraphs about the suffragists in his high school history textbook; years later, he had his first encounter with NOW—in which he carefully peeked in a window before opening the door to be sure men were allowed. He was eventually active in the ERA extension campaign of 1978, embarked on a cross-country bikeathon for it in 1982 and even worked for pioneers Toni Carabillo and Judith Meuli.